LG G Watch R Australian Review

The LG G Watch R is the smartest smart watch I’ve ever wrapped around my wrist — except in one important detail.
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LG G Watch Australian Review
I have to admit that I was a little stunned when LG followed up the announcement of the original LG G Watch quite so rapidly with the announcement of the LG G Watch R, its second Android Wear device, but its first with a more traditional round watch face. Sure, Motorola did beat them to market with the Moto 360, which I’m still waiting to review, but the usual pattern for products is that you support them for a while before bringing out your substantially better sequel.
There’s little doubting that the LG G Watch R is the superior sequel, too, and if I had bought the G Watch (which will remain on sale), I’d be somewhat kicking myself. The G Watch R’s 1.3 inch circular OLED display is substantially more stylish, and while I’m not somebody who slavishly follows fashion, even I can’t deny that it’s a watch that the non-tech crowd would more happily slap on their wrists rather than the square style of the G Watch, or for that matter the pure-tech-and-style-be-damned original Pebble, which has been my go-to smartwatch for some time. Like the G Watch, the LG G Watch R takes a standard watch band, in case you don’t like the supplied black leather strap. It’s IP67 rated, which means it should survive up to half an hour in water up to a depth of a metre, although LG doesn’t recommend swimming with it.

Hiking, however, is fine.
Hiking, however, is fine.

LG’s slightly upgraded the internals on the G Watch R, running on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 1.2GHz processor with a barometer and optical heart rate sensor under its band. Again, they’re not first to market with that kind of feature. Samsung’s had heart rate monitors in a number of its smartwatches, including its own Android Wear offering, for some time. Like the Samsung offerings, the readings from the G Watch R should be taken as indicative rather than absolute, but it’s not a bad feature to have. For those who might wonder, it turns out I do have a heartbeat.
Although not much of one.
Although not much of one.

LG doesn’t have control over the Android Wear platform, which is very much Google’s baby. What it has done is supplied a range of circular watchfaces to pick from on the G Watch R’s body. Some of these have come across from the G Watch, and some are brand new.
I so very much wanted the watchface just before this one to be "Intergalactic". Maybe next time, LG?
I so very much wanted the watchface just before this one to be “Intergalactic”.
Maybe next time, LG?

Frankly, some are absolutely bloody horrible watchfaces. I seriously doubt anyone who isn’t colourblind is going to enjoy the Aurora face for all that long, and some of the more abstract faces are only going to have a few fans. Still, there’s a little something here for everybody; I’m a fan of the World Clock and Fitness faces, which give you additional dial information alongside their analog watch faces. Your tastes, naturally, may vary, and you’ll have to learn to live with some sentence truncation due to the round face.
The Aurora watchface. Just say no.
The Aurora watchface.
Just say no.

I commented that the G Watch felt like a version one product, and there’s a lot in the G Watch R that has been greatly refined, but that’s not to say that it’s without its problems. It’s still a large chunky watch of the style that’s often referred to as “masculine” (for better or worse), which means it won’t suit everybody. There’s a weird quirk where the compass will lose its sense of direction, requiring rotation in a figure eight pattern when it does so. For some reason, this rarely works on your wrist, requiring removal to get its bearings straight.
There’s a dial on the side of the G Watch R that clicks in to take you back to your watch face from any menu screen, but it also rotates. This does nothing, and while it’s a minor OCD quirk, that somewhat annoys me. It should do something, but it’s just present instead.
I wonder what this dial does... oh.
I wonder what this dial does… oh.

Those are minor problems compared to the G Watch R’s biggest flaw, however. LG has improved the battery capacity of the G Watch R over its predecessor with a 410mAh battery, but despite the slight battery bump, it’s still a watch that simply won’t make it through two days in a row before going flat.
Charging is via a supplied round plate that connects to a standard phone charger, but if you take the G Watch R off overnight (and you probably would, given its size), you’d better drop it on its charger, otherwise at some point in the morning of the following day it’ll go flat.
Battery life remains the key enemy of every colour screen smart watch right now, and the LG G Watch R is sadly no different. It’s no longer a version one device, but until makers can either improve battery performance or reduce power consumption markedly, we’re stuck with version one point five devices that are still solidly niche products. As much as I like the look and functions of the G Watch R, I can do much of what it does from a cheaper Pebble — and that’s a device I only have to charge once a week.

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